The Estonian capital of Tallinn has been crowned the Green Capital of Europe for 2023.
Yesterday evening, the highly anticipated environmental award was presented in the Finnish city of Lahti, respective winner in 2021. Tallinn beat the competition of Krakow, Poland; Sofia, Bulgaria and Helsingborg, Sweden will be recognized as pioneers in sustainable development across the continent.
Having already applied for the awards twice and narrowly missing out on first place each time, the Estonian capital has reached the end of its long and hard-fought competition. The city is following in the footsteps of previous green winners including Stockholm, Hamburg, Oslo and Lisbon.
The mayor of Tallinn, Mihhail Kõlvart, took the stage in the large Sibelius Hall in Lahti to accept the award with humor. Hiding his speech in favor of an improvised version, he said: “We may not look happy, but this is how we are in Estonia”, describing his culture as typically “unemotional” .
His team waved the Estonian flag as applause rang out in the auditorium and the city received a check for € 600,000.
At the same ceremony, the European Green Leaf Awards were also awarded – a sister prize for small towns with less than 100,000 inhabitants. This year the candidate cities were Bistrita, Bulgaria; Elsinore, Denmark; Gavà, Spain; Treviso, Italy; Valongo, Portugal and Winterswijk, the Netherlands.
Two cities were named the winners, Valongo and Winterswijk, who received a prize of € 200,000 each and both gave heartfelt speeches. For many participants, being crowned the Green Capital was not only a chance to win a lucrative investment, but obviously also a boost to local pride.
In between the awards ceremony, the world’s first climate neutral orchestra (the Lahti Symphony Orchestra) performed an original musical piece called ICE – an ode to threatened coastal cities.
Composed by Cecilia Damström and conducted by Dalia Stasevska, the piece was a haunting 10-minute representation of the impending collapse of ecosystems.
Was the Prime Minister of Finland present?
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin also attended the awards ceremony, which spoke to the contestants via a video call.
“Science tells us that we have to become climate neutral by the middle of the century, that’s a scientific fact,” she began.
“The European Green Capital initiative is a great way to highlight the role of cities in the fight against climate change.
She stressed that awards like these are another step on the road to Europe becoming the first climate neutral continent by 2050, which means our continent will not emit more greenhouse gases than it does. ‘he cannot sequester any.
She added: “We need to move quickly – one thing is clear, the climate goals must be achieved together.”
What does it take to become a green capital of Europe?
The European Commission initiative rewards cities that are committed to environmental, social and economic sustainability. It is about creating a real process of fight against climate change so that urban spaces become “more resilient”, according to the presenter of the awards and European Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius.
But the award winners are also those who can inspire others with their sustainable solutions, spreading the idea that green cities are livable and enjoyable.
“It’s not seen as something I have to sacrifice – I do it because it’s fun and cool,” said Lykke Leonardsen, head of the Copenhagen climate unit, when the city won the same award. in 2014.
A city’s past and present performance all contribute to the price assessment process.
A jury of experts assesses the applications according to 12 key environmental indicators:
1. Air quality
2. The noise
5. Nature and biodiversity
6. Sustainable use of land and soil
7. Green growth and eco-innovation
8. Climate change: mitigation
9. Climate change: Adaptation
10. Sustainable urban mobility
11. Energy performance
After being selected from a shortlist, the final cities are judged on their overall commitment, vision and enthusiasm – as well as their ability to be a role model for the rest of the world.
Why did Tallinn win the award?
This is the first time that Tallinn has won the title of “Green Capital of Europe” and the city has been praised for its commitment to renew its candidacy year after year.
As the largest city in Estonia, it has 393,222 inhabitants and is located on the coast of the Gulf of Finland in the Baltic Sea. Since the country gained independence in 1991, after the Soviet era, the capital of Tallinn has made tremendous progress in the areas of sustainable development – no longer limited by the previously restrictive regime.
Tallinn’s Old Town has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its medieval architecture and its network of parks has also grown with 90 m2 of public green space. These protected areas represent 19.5% of the city.
After a history of heavy and polluting industry, Tallinn has come a long way today. The city has a long-term strategy called ‘Tallinn 2030’, which has the overall objective of building a “healthy urban environment and sustainable use of natural resources” by 2030. This strategy is supported by the action plan for Tallinn Landscaping, Stormwater Strategy and Sustainable Energy Action Plan which includes strict efficiency requirements for buildings.
When the jury sat down at the European Green City Awards, they highlighted that elements such as free public transport contributed to the victory, among other factors such as a vision for leading climate action that supports the goals of sustainable development of the United Nations. Tallinn’s climate neutral roadmap promises a 40% reduction in emissions by 2030.
“We are firmly committed to a green future, but we will only achieve it if we can make changes in different areas at the same time and in synergy,” Tallinn Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart said in a statement.
“Gone are the days when the protection of nature and the advancement of people are opposed – we have learned to combine innovation and development with a sustainable economy and green thinking. “
“For us, a green capital means that Tallinn is welcoming, comfortable and clean – a city of the future,” Kõlvart said proudly at the ceremony.